Visiting Temecula Wine Country, California

Latest visit: January 2019

Tips for visiting Temecula Wine Country:

  • You should plan to spend at least a full day in the Temecula Vineyards. It’s a small wine region compared to places like Sonoma and Napa Valley but there are still a lot of wineries within the small perimeter (40+wineries!). 
  • Where to say:
    • Right beside Old Town Temecula is the SpringHill Suites by Marriott Temecula Valley Wine Country. We tried it on my first trip to the area because it’s very close but it’s also very old and needs some updating. Breakfast is included.
    • The second time around, we tried the Residence Inn Temecula Murrieta because I’d been told it was newer. It was further from old town Temecula (10-15 minute drive), but definitely worth it! We even got upgraded to a huge suite with a kitchen, dishwasher & 2 rooms and bathrooms. Breakfast is included and the gym is small but clean and efficient.
    • One of my friend visited the area with her mother and stayed at the Temecula Creek Inn and said it was very cute! If you like golf, you’ll also enjoy their 27-Hole championship golf course, surrounded by more than 300 acres of natural beauty.
  • Getting there: we found some organized tours when we were researching the area but we chose to drive since we had to be in Los Angeles later that same day. I was the designated driver and just had a few sips here and there. The cool part about wine tasting in Temecula Valley is that if you stay in any of the hotels close to the old town (see my other post here), or in the newer part of town, you’re only a 10/15 minutes drive from the beginning of the wine tasting area. So if you like a specific vineyard, you can uber to it and spend a few hours, then uber to a second one, and then back to the hotel without spending a fortune on a private driver or being rushed in a group tour! Some wineries also offer accommodations and you can look at Airbnb options (stay in a wine country airstream or in a huge villa with 7 beds and 5,5 acres of land)!
  • Here are a few Airbnb experiences that caught our attention while we were researching the area: California Themed VW bus wine/brew tour and visit wineries via horse-drawn trolley! You can also go on a hot air balloon ride and see the vineyards from the sky!
  • Thoughts on a few vineyards:
    • Europa Village: soon to be a very large Americanized vineyard, it currently has a lot of charm but I’m not sure how long this will last. The sommelier showed us their expansion plans which included 3 new sections representing France, Italy and Spain with each their own chapel, accommodations and restaurants. I think I’m a little bit more traditional and enjoy the current smaller version where we tasted wines, elbow to elbow with our new neighbor friends and then sat down in their outdoor patio area to enjoy the smell of roses and the quiet surroundings.
    • Baily Winery: right next to the Europa village is the Baily. This place was much quieter and felt a little bit cold and rigid. We walked in, didn’t like how quiet and dead it was, so we walked back out. My friend did recommend this place so I’ll have to come back and check it out another time and maybe attend one of the Shakespeare in the Vines performances.
    • MiraMonte Winery: we stopped here because we saw the winery perched at the top of this small hill and thought the views would be nice. We walked up to this beautifully planned outdoor patio and restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious wine tasting flight. They even had heaters outside for guests! Inside, there was more wine tasting, beer options as well as olive oil and balsamic vinegar tastings.
    • We drove north on Calle Contento road but did not stop at any wineries. It was a cute detour and we did notice one of the wineries, The Peltzer, was offering a farm experience. It could be cool if you have kids and want to entertain them.
    • Briar Rose Winery: Loosely inspired by Disney characters (and the key word here is LOOSELY), this winery was very peaceful and quiet and reminded me of Snow White and the 7 dwarves. Our Sommelier, Brandon, was very friendly and passionate. We sat out at one of the tables in the grass and he came out to serve us, along with the Wine Cat and dog, who happens to have his face on one of the bottles! We hung out here for a while, enjoying our surroundings and the wine.
    • Ponte Winery: I highly recommend this place for a relaxed environment and tasty lunch. We sat outside, on the patio, and enjoyed a glass of Moscato while listening to live music. The farmer’s pizza was to die for but you should know that all are handmade Italian herbed pizza crust fired in a wood-burning oven. The tasting room was quite big and the garden behind it was beautiful.
    • Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards: This was a big commercial-like winery, with a HUGE tasting room, gift shop and restaurant. They also had a great outdoor space with a Bocce ball game and a bunch of chairs. We felt like enjoying the sunlight and the restaurant was fully shaded (almost dark but their menu boasted a wide variety of food) so we ordered from the to-go menu and sipped on a rosé sparkling wine (which was delicious!). My friend ordered the burger and I got the Vineyard salad & chicken- both were very tasty and fresh. Another friend told me about the almond flavored sparkling wine after I left as well as their brunch (Bubble Brunch Buffet! 10am – 3pm)! I’ll have to come back here too! It seems you can also rent rooms and stay on property and organize events.
    • Lorenzi Estate Wines: I enjoyed this stop because it had more of a local vibe to it. We actually met one of the owners! We enjoyed our peaceful wine tasting, overlooking the vineyard at sunset. The wines were all fantastic but we especially loved Brutus, a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon & Cabernet Franc, and bought 2 bottles of it as well as 2 candles that smelled like heaven.
    • We drove over to the Cougar Vineyard & Winery, out of curiosity for the name, and were pleasantly surprised again. We talked to the sommelier who was very friendly and suggested we pair our brownie with a glass of 2014 Estate Sagrantino, which was absolutely delicious. We sat down on very comfy wooden chairs and admired the beautiful Tuscan-like views. Sadly when that glass was finished we had to head home due to our Waze app telling us traffic was starting to build up.
    • South Coast Winery– resort type winery, highly recommended by a friend and on my list for next time. I tasted and enjoyed one of their cabernet sauvignons at 1909.
    • Avensole Winery-very nice but expensive restaurant ($25 sandwich), recommended by a friend. Will check it out next time!
    • We almost finished the whole loop but had to turn back!

Impressions of Temecula Wine Country:

Even if it feels like this area is very new and young compared to other older wine regions, I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wines and the great outdoor spaces designed for people to hang out and chill for hours.

I loved the fact that all 40+ vineyards are all very close to each other, making it very accessible and easy to navigate. I didn’t like how fast cars drove on Rancho California Road &  De Portola Rd. It seemed dangerous: so many cars turning in and out vineyards.

All in all, between exploring Old Town Temecula and sipping on delicious wines in the Temecula Valley, I had a blast and I can assure you this definitely qualifies as a perfect short getaway destination.  I WILL BE BACK FOR SURE, even if I’ve been here twice already! It was nice to see the landscape change depending on the seasons (fall & winter)!

Related post: Old Town Temecula, San Clemente, Skydive Lake Elsinore.